As a young girl, living in the eastern suburbs of New South Wales Australia, you tend to have everything you need. The area is wealthy; there are wonderful educational facilities, a plethora of jobs, restaurants and shops. The beach is at our doorstep and there is an endless list of activities to fulfill your weekend. Yet, we still complain.
“It’s too cold, it’s too hot, I’m tired, I’m sore, I’m hungry, my university lecturer didn’t give me enough notes, my sushi was made more than three hours ago and there was too much froth in my morning cappuccino”. Life sucks, or FML (Aka, F*#k My Life) can be heard at regular intervals. Honestly a day didn’t go past, where I didn’t have a good old Australian whinge (bitch session).
This is true for most people I know.
A few years into my job, I was offered to go with a school group to Nepal for a trekking excursion and charity project. A free trip, AND being paid to work. “Of course, why not,” I said.
Arriving in that country you are met with a beautiful array of colors, sounds, and smells. It is so different to life in Australia. We had the opportunity to trek in the Himalayas, meet the beautiful Sherpa locals, stay in teahouses and learn the Nepali language.
However, it is still under developed. Electricity cuts out often, hygiene standards are low, children learn in classrooms with over 100 students (if in fact they go to school at all). Marriage is often arranged, child labor exists and a high percentage of girls aged 7-18 are sex trafficked each year.
Despite some of these grim aspects of life, I found Nepali’s to be friendly, hardworking, and some of the most positive people you’ve ever met. This sure does change your perspective.
The critical point in my trip that changed me forever was visiting Asha Nepal, an organization working with girls rescued from the sex trafficking trade. Girls below 18 are found, brought back to Nepal and supported by this organization with schooling, tutoring in English, business skill development programs and confidence building exercises.
Often it is hard for these young girls to return to regular schools due to a certain stigma attached to them and fear of discrimination (especially when girls are already treated as a lower caste). Asha Nepal provides support to enable them to rebuild their lives. We travel there to teach them positive psychology skills, goal setting and self-help techniques.
One day a girl stood up and read a story she had written for us about her life. It talked about the darkness she experienced in her life from the age of seven years old and the trickery that caused her to be taken, or ‘sold’. The story was emotionally riveting and shared the impact that Asha Nepal has had on her life, helping her to become a confident and happy sixteen year old.
She was in darkness and found light, all thanks to Asha Nepal. She then sang a song of thanks written by her own hand. I found that she was such an inspirational and resilient young girl that, despite all the difficulties in her own life, is happy and positive – making the most of her new world.
When I amin a country which lacksthe resources I am accustomed to, or missing mymorning coffee or television show and am yearning to go back home, I am now able to stop this way of thinking because I immediately think of this girl and her inspirational story. It quickly puts an end to my pettywhinges!
I know that I want to visit this charity every year for as long as I can. Many of my wonderful students back home in Australia are penpals with girls there, and I have since travelled back seven times to see these Nepali girls as they grow and blossom. I still see the courageous student who shared her story and feel overjoyed at her development over the years. She always stays in touch and says she’s counting down the days to see us.
This impacted my life deeply because we didn’t teach the girls there much at all, let alone the grand concepts of gratitude or resilience. Infact, they taught us. I have learned so much from their fighting spirit.
I came home more grateful, realizing that if the air conditioner is a bit cold or my egg isn’t runny enough in the morning, it really isn’t something to complain about. There are people around the world with more dire circumstances than mine who often display amazingly positive attitudes despite the circumstances.
The irony is many times those in more developed countries feel sorry for them, when instead, what we need to consider is actually listening to them and learning from them. It is from this process of friendship development we all come away better, more enlightened people. Travel certainly broadens your horizons and teaches you life skills, and this did just that.